Gorham Antique Sterling Silver Bucket Ice Bowl with Original Ice Spoon, Providence, RI, 1872
It is exceedingly rare to find this iconic American silver ice bowl with its original ice serving spoon. Both objects are Gorham masterpieces in their own right.
Lodged into a base of ice floes, the angled bucket has a jagged rim bordered with hanging icicles. Realistic wood grain and straps with hanging icicles create impressive details. Engraved on both the bucket and back of the spoon are the original engraved 'FEB' monograms.
Made from multiple parts, the spoon has two crisscrossed harpoons applied with loops and attached ropes twisting down the length of the handle with spear ends that terminate in the bowl. Standing atop the pierced bowl is a figure of a teeth-baring bear looking upwards with one foot on a harpoon as if to make a statement. Together, these items are outstanding examples of imagination, design and execution coming together.
Ice bowls are a wonderful symbol of American ingenuity.
It is easy to forget how vital ice was in a world before the refrigerator. Unlike Western Europe, North America produced abundant supplies of clean ice. Moreover, the pristine rivers and lakes and the cold winters allowed bountiful ice 'harvesting' in the winter and early spring.
Henry Thoreau mentions the 'harvesting' of ice from Walden Pond. (1) An appendix to the 1880 U. S. census notes that 8 to 10 million tons of ice were harvested annually in the United States. (2)
Americans developed this resource and created markets for it by solving needs in tropical areas.
In the early 19th century, Frederic Tudor and his Wenham Lake Ice Company improved insulating techniques to ship his ice afar - to the West Indies and even Calcutta, India. Wenham Lake Ice became popular in Europe because it was clean enough to add to water and other refreshments, unlike old world ice. Queen Victoria was so delighted with the pure ice in her drinks that the Wenham Lake Ice Company received a royal warrant! (3)
According to the Gorham Costing Records, the No. 140 "Old Wooden Bucket Ice Bowl" was first introduced on 8 February 1872 with a factory cost of $95.66. (It was more expensive to make and heavier than the famous #125, "Polar Bear," ice bowl.)
Gorham Archives Image Courtesy of the John Hay Library, Brown University.
Literature: A similar example is discussed and illustrated in "The Class of 1870 Gorham Sterling Ice Bowls", by Samuel J. Hough, in Silver Magazine, September/October, 1989, pp. 30-33.
This very rare ice bowl and spoon are marked with Gorham's trademark and 'STERLING.' The bowl is also stamped with the '140' model number and the date mark for 1872 and '6.' The spoon is marked with the model number '10'. The bowl measures 9.5 inches long by 5.5 inches high and weighs approximately 33.75 troy ounces. The spoon measures 11.25 inches long and weighs about 3.80 troy ounces. Both are in excellent antique condition, with the bowl retaining the original nuts that secure the bowl to the base.
Gavin Weightman, The Frozen-Water Trade: A True Story, (New York: Hyperion, 2003), pp. 169-70.
Weightman, p. 231.
Weightman, p. 184.
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